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Orlando SeaWolves Close Inaugural Season with 6-4 Win Over Florida Tropics

The SeaWolves’ inaugural season is over but they won the Indoor Florida Derby series.

Nigel Worrall

The Orlando SeaWolves finished the season with a 6-4 win against the Florida Tropics at Silver Spurs Arena in the second game of back-to-back home dates. The win came less than 24 hours after a 7-6 home loss to Utica City, in which the SeaWolves again fell behind by multiple goals before attempting a furious comeback. As with so many of Orlando’s rally attempts in 2019, it came up just short against Utica, which won its division with that win.

The MASL Florida Derby closed with The SeaWolves winning four of the six match-ups between the two I-4 rivals. The SeaWolves managed to finish ahead of the Tropics in the South Central Division, with a 9-15 record. Florida ended the season 6-17.

Victor Parreiras put the Tropics ahead early, scoring about three minutes into the game. It continued a trend of the SeaWolves falling behind early. Orlando tried to pull that goal right back with Joshio Sandoval missing just wide, followed by a shot off the goal frame by Osvaldo Rojas. Seconds later, Rojas blasted one right at goalkeeper Hugo Silva.

The SeaWolves should have equalized about seven minutes in, attacking on a 3-v-1, but Mario Alvarez’s unselfish pass was too soft and dribbled weakly right to the goalkeeper. Gordy Gurson did equalize seconds later. The SeaWolves stole the ball off a bad pass by the goalkeeper and Rojas slipped the ball over to Gurson for the easy finish to make it 1-1.

This time it was the Tropics who nearly pulled the goal right back. Rainer Hauss was forced to make a pair of good saves and Dru Goff cleared a ball off the line with an overhead kick. Florida also nearly connected on a corner kick set play but Orlando survived.

Former Orlando City midfielder Jonny Mendoza had a couple good opportunities to give the SeaWolves the lead late in the first quarter but he couldn’t beat Silva and one flick attempt went wide and the teams were level at 1-1 after one period. Shots were 12-7 (8-6 on target) in favor of Florida in the opening 15 minutes.

Hauss made a big save against a Caio Ruiz shot early in the second period to keep the game tied.

Stefan Mijatovic and Mendoza then scored just 20 seconds apart to give Orlando a 3-1 advantage with 8:11 remaining in the period. Mijatovic bundled home a cross from Thiago Freitas to give the SeaWolves their first lead of the game. Mendoza then followed suit off a Derek Huffman pass.

With 6:43 to play in the first half the game turned Florida’s way. Goff was called for a handball while blocking a shot in the penalty area and the call gave the Tropics a penalty. Parreiras scored from the spot by blasting a shot past Hauss to make it 3-2.

That was followed moments later by a blue card on Mijatovic, which put the Tropics on the game’s first power play. A shot by Florida hit the goalpost and nearly went in but Hauss knocked it out of play for a corner. The Tropics nearly scored on the restart from Lucas Montelares and Hauss fought it off. Orlando cleared the next corner and finished killing off the Tropics’ power play.

Alvarez fired from the top of the semicircle with half a minute left in the second quarter but Silva made the save. At the other end, the Tropics hit the crossbar on an Antonio Manfut shot and the SeaWolves clung to a 3-2 lead at the half. Florida out-shot Orlando 21-12 (16-11 on goal) in the first half and the Tropics were 0-for-1 on the only power play before the break.

Hauss made another big save at the start of the third period, denying the speedy Enzo Marangoni. But JP Reyes scored off a Manfut assist moments later to tie the match at 3-3 just 1:58 into the third period.

Huffman could have restored the lead less than 30 seconds later but he blasted his shot just wide of the near post from the left side. Lewis Neal also missed just wide in the sixth minute of the third.

Seconds after the Neal miss, Reyes was called for taking Gurson down and went to the penalty box, putting Orlando on its first power play.

Freitas had a shot stopped by Silva early in the man advantage. Orlando could do nothing with the power play and in fact had to fight off a couple of good chances just after penalty time expired. Freitas managed to win a free kick right after that but then badly hit his shot into the seats on the ensuing set piece.

Manfut forced another good save from Hauss as the third quarter moved into the final five minutes.

Mendoza nearly broke the deadlock with just over a minute to play in the third. Freitas made a nice spin move to lose his defenders and slipped a ball in to Mendoza in front. The shot was taken quickly but Silva made a nice save in close quarters to keep the game at 3-3.

Manfut then hit the post for the Tropics in the final minute just after a bad giveaway by the SeaWolves and the teams were knotted up at 3-3 after three. Florida increased its shots advantage to 31-20 (24-15 on goal) as the game entered its final period.

Orlando regained the lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter. Rojas held the ball and fired a left-footed effort that Silva couldn’t handle and Alvarez jumped on the rebound and slipped it home to make it 4-3 with his ninth goal of the year.

That lead lasted only seconds. A weird ball off the top of the glass fell perfectly for Ricardo Diegues, who took it on the volley and smashed a wicked shot past Hauss to make it 4-4.

A Huffman flick with just under eight minutes remaining narrowly missed the net for Orlando. But just over a minute later, Freitas made an amazing play to beat his defender and smash the ball past Silva to make it 5-4 for the SeaWolves.

The SeaWolves saw the match out, with Gordy Gurson adding an assurance goal to make it 6-4.

Florida out-shot the SeaWolves 41-26 (32-20 on target). The Tropics were 1-for-2 on the power play and Orlando went 0-for-3.

That will do it for the Orlando SeaWolves’ inaugural season. The MASL playoffs will go on without Orlando. The team was extremely competitive for a new franchise but came up on the short end of several close games in 2019.